Willow sat looking out the oval window watching the baggage handlers throwing bags onto the conveyor belt. “I hope it doesn’t get broken.”
“What?” Willow turned her head to the speaker.
“You said something. I wanted you to know I heard you.”
Willow looked into the deepest, dark brown eyes she’d ever seen.
“Oh … well … I was just hoping what’s in my bag doesn’t break. Those handlers are throwing the luggage.”
“What’s in your bag you hope won’t break?”
“Nothing anyone else would think is a big deal … but it’s a big deal to me.” Willow said turning her head to watch out the window again.
“Yes, not everyone agrees on what’s important. But, if it’s important to you, that’s all that matters.”
Willow turned back to the person sitting next to her on the plane. Their gaze locked. She’d never felt comfortable looking a new person in the eyes. Why him? Why now?
“Want to tell me about it?”
She dabbed the edge of her eyes with her finger trying to catch the moisture before her mascara ran. She rarely wore it. Why today?
“I don’t know you. Are you just making conversation or do you actually care?” She broached a smile that even she didn’t believe.
“Let’s fix that then.” He held out his hand.
She moved her hand to join his, shook it quickly, and pulled back.
“My name is Mitchell and I’m a people watcher. I love learning about people. Interactions like this are what keep life interesting. So, yes, I’m both making conversation and I care.”
Willow raised her eyebrows. Before she even realized, the words pushed out of her. “I’m Willow.” She sat still, her eyes darting between Mitchell, people walking down the plane’s aisle, and her lap. She drew in a deep breath, looked out the window again, and turned toward her seatmate. “It’s a ceramic dish made by my grandmother. I’m headed home from her funeral and this is my treasure from her belongings.”
“Were you close?”
“Once … well, yes, we were.”
“But all she left you was a dish?”
“She and I used to go to pottery class together. The day she made it, I told her I was tired of being treated like an outcast in my family and I was leaving. She told me once I learned to forgive I would find my way home. I didn’t see her again until her nurse called and told me Granma was dying.” Willow searched her purse, wiped her nose with a retrieved tissue, and crinkled it in her hands. “She died the day after I got to the hospital.”
“I’m sorry. Did she know you were there?”
“I think so. I clutched her hand and sang our favorite song in her ear. A tear trickled out of the edge of her eye.” Willow found another tissue and wiped her eyes and nose again.
“So, did you find your way back home?”
Willow lifted the edges of her mouth slightly and she squeezed her eyes shut then opened them and looked at Mitchell. “Yes. My brothers and my parents were around her bed as well. We were singing together when she took her last breath. Later, out in the hall, we hugged and asked each other’s forgiveness. Granma would have been very happy.”
“So, you’re headed home now with a treasure but with a lighter load?”
Willow smiled again. “Yes, Granma said I’d find my way home and I did, thank God, I did.”
“Yes, thank God indeed.”
“You know Him?” Willow tilted her head to the side and watched Mitchell’s eyes and whiskered face.
“Yes, I do.” Mitchell shuffled in his seat, rolled his shoulders, and lowered his head a bit. “Do you think maybe you’d want to get a cup of coffee after we land?”
Willow felt her eyes open and tried to relax her face muscles. “No. I can’t.”
Mitchell’s shoulders drooped.
“My friend is picking me up so I won’t have time. But, what about another time?” She smiled again.
He looked up at her, grinned, and they exchanged phone numbers.
Hmmm, maybe forgiveness makes room for new friendships as well. Thank you, God.
Photo Credit: Unsplash-Krys Alex